From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.English
Date: Mon, 02 Sep 2002
The following excerpts about tumo, Tibetan lamas, etc., is from an old Fate magazine.
Discovering The Yogis Secret
by Mayne R. Coe
Dr Mayne R. Coe was born in Washington, DC. in 1914, earned
in Organic Chemistry and
his Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the university of Maryland. He has worked for the United States Bureau of Fisheries and for two divisions of the Department Of Agriculture, the Nutrition Division (Bureau of Animal Industry) and the Wool Division. Following extensive medical research Georgefown University Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he now is working on the causes of cancer and aging. His investigation of psi phenomena is a hobby.
Travelers to the high Himalays of India and Tibet have brought back inceredible tales of yogis who, in sub breezing temperatures, can raise their body heat to melt the snow.
As Dingle watched these heavy
blankets were reimmersed in
the cold water of the lake, through a hole chopped in the ice. And
the blankets which should have been frozen stiff within minutes,
accordmg to Dingle, were quickly dried by the heat of the lamas'
He was informed that one lama had been doing this for two days without
recess and he saw that this man had melted the snow to a distance of 10
feet around him. Yet their bodies were at the normal temperature of
Fahrenheit. Madame Alexandra DavidNeel, in her
and Masters in Tibet, tells of witnessing similar feats and mentions
own attempt. She tells of how the neophyte
breathing exercises, self-hypnosis, how he visualizes fire originating in the region of his solar plexus and gradually extending to all parts of his body. But she also states that the method of generating "tumo," as this mysterious heat is called, is a closely kept secret and cannot be learned unless one is personally trained by an adept.
F. Yeats-Brown mentions these practices in La~er at
LaTge. Vincent Gaddis,
in his book Mysterious FiTes and Light:, refers to the abnormal heat
by some saints and yogis.
Well, the thing plagued me. If it was true, I figured there had to be an explanation and surely by now science had enough facts on hand to explain it. I made my first approach to the problem shortly after I had moved from Florida to an apartment in Georgetown in the District of Columbia. It was summertime and I had bought a cake of ice in order to cool something or other. Deciding to see what
it felt like to contact something really cold, I donned my s'wim triinks and proceeded to sit on the ice. It was unbearable. I got off that cake of ice in a hurry, feeling the problem probably was insoluble.
That winter, however, I tried again. In February, 1966, I put on my swim trunks, opened the
windows in the basement and cooled the room to the outside temperature which was somewhere
between -12~ and 2()o Fahrenheit. I had concluded "tumo" must be a dormant flatural body
function which operates only with all the clothes off and that we have weakened our ability
to withstand cold by wearing clothes. We wear heavv clothes in cold weather because heat is
conducted away from our bodies faster than we can produce it. Cf course, it was not a question
of temperature alone; the wind velocity also would de
Sitting cross-legged on a folded oolen blanket I got colder and colder. It helps keep in body
heat hold the legs and arms close, aking them part of a larger ass and exposing less skin surto the cold. The blanket or al skin you sit on also keeps considerable part of the~ body ~ace warm. I tried to visualize as suggested by Alexandra David-Neel but all I could feel think of was that I was the
~st I had ever been. It was -. I tried deep breathing. I ed rubbing my hands over my~. I tried jumping up and My nose and ears hurt. fingers and toes felt as if they ~ere freezing stiff. My body was
ered with goose pimples. I 'vered and shook. How I stuck out for an hour I'll never know. Afterwards the last I just felt sort numb all over. I kept telling MyseIf I wasn't really freezing 9 that perhaps if I kept it up enough, visualizing fire, the tumo" would rise, But the bone--cold drove out all other
The painful, freezing cold and the urge to avoid it led to a wild, primitive feeling. It was like sitting on the edge of death.
But I was determined. Apparently I was in excellent
health and should
be able to survive the ordeal. Cold, icy-cold, I kept thinking. The pit
of my stomach stayed warm and I folded my hands below it and hunched
letting my breath warm my chest and stomach what feeble bit it could.
heat you reach a point where, with an increas~, you can feel no hotter;
so with cold, as it lowers, you reach a point where you can feel no
My mind was concentrated on only one thing, the cold, and I was
that someone once said, "Nothing so concentrates the mind as a
After an hour of this I hurried into a warm room. Shortly I
a feeling of great elation followed by tremendous wellbeing. I didn't
sleep much that night; I wasn't tired. For two days afterward I
great mental acuity, increased vitality and my sharpness of sight (I
glasses when I read) became almost normal for two days! There must have
been great gland stimulation.
I still didn't have the secret; yet no cold, sore throat, flu or pneumonia resulted. I felt great. Perhaps if I continue, I thought, I can gradually build up resistance as a natural mechanism.
The yogis claim
that once "tumo" is fully aroused
cold temperatures never will bother you again - as long as you don't
heavy garments. They are able to stay in caves at altitudes up to
feet in the mountains all winter long. The temperatures drop to 400
below zero but they live without fires, naked or clothed in thin cotton
garments, once they have aroused "tumo.', I tried sitting outside,
in the snow on a mat at 300, then at 200 and then at 150 that winter
I couldn't stand it comfortably for more than 10 minutes at one time.
following winter I had a similar lack of success although I was
the effects of cold on the body and what I could stand. The third
moved to an apartment where I could sit on the roof at night without anyone knowing it. I spent
more nights practicing. I increased the amount of animal protein and unsaturated oils and fat in my diet; I put on weight. I sat on a folded woolen blanket on the roof, completely nude, my legs crossed and my hands held be-low my stomach. The hair on my head was ice cold but my body remained warm to the touch. For some reason, I felt the cold at my fingernails and toenails. I found that I could stay out longer when the wind was not blowing hard and that the lower the temperature the less the wind was apt to blow; that I could stand a 20-mile-an-hour wind at 300 F. for half an hour or I
could stand a five-mile-an-hour wind at 50 for a similar length of time. I gradually increased my
ability to endure the cold to one hour at 100 F. when the wind wasn't blowing. Incidentally,
all this practice was done late at night when temperatures reach their lowest. Once when I was sitting on roof naked at 50 degrees a cold wind, perhaps at 30 mph, suddenly sprang up and struc me. At once something like a explosion hit the pit of my stomach and waves of internal heat ~wed throughout my body. L a chain reaction in a then clear reactor it filled every of my body. It was most pleas and I knew if it continued I could stand any temperatures yogis could stand. This Wa. tumo, no doubt about it, and had taken a sudden cold shock produce it. It would have been impossible to experience it if had been covered by clothing But then the gusts died down the excess heat, to my pointment, died with it. I knew then that it must be ache thing, that hormones must have been released, perhaps from my adrenals or liver, since the flareup started in this region. They had acted as catalysts, increasing to a great degree the oxidation of the fat and sugar in my body, releasing far more heat than normal, I
But try as I did the rest of that winter, I was
unable to repeat this
flare-up of body heat. It remained a baffling mystery; yet it seemed to
me that the secret must be a simple one. I had made some progress, of
I no longer suffered as I had the first time I exposed myself to
temperatures. I had become acclimated to the extent that I actually
colder with my clothes on, wallling two blocks from my car home 9fl a
night, than when I sat nude, completely exposed to the climate. This
strange, but it is true. I came to believe that the yogi breathing
are not too important at the Washington, D.C., altitude, whereas in the
high Himalayas where there is only half as much oxygen in the
they become necessary to promote heat from oxidation of fats and
body. For these experiments, it Seemed that you need only be strong and in good health. Diet is
important. You must feel full of energy. It is hard to combat cold when you're tired and hungry. At high altitudes the red blood cell count may rise to 9,000,000 in order to capture enough oxygen for the body. My red blood cell count checked out at 5,300,000 which is quite high for low altitudes.
I studied books on polar expeditions, life in the far north, the conquests of Everest, Annapuma, without finding a clue. I learned from one member of the American expedition that conquered Mount Everest in 1963 that many of their Sherpa porters owned no shoes and walked through the snow in their bare feet, the soles of which were covered with thick caluses. I earned of the dangers of wetting the body at subfreezing temperatures, particularly in high winds, of how parts of the body can become frostbitten or even frozen without warning. I learned you can lose your nose and ears through frostbite; that if your cheeks get wet and then freeze they can drop away, a mass of dead flesh. All this frightened me but I cautiously continued my exposures to the cold. I was always greatly exhilarated afterwards. It was a great tonic. I confided to my father, a retired chemist living in Florida, what I was doing and he encouraged me to continue carefully with my experiments. I didn't dare confide in my friends; they might have hustled me off to the nearest looney bin. I was constantly fearful that someone might report a prowler on the roof and the cops would find me naked, sitting up there. I began to doubt that success was possible but I was stubborn; I wouldn't give up. A few days before Christmas, 1968, 1 suddenly recalled some-thing I had read years ago while working as an organic chemist for the United States Department of Agriculture in the wool division. Wool is a great insulator of heat and cold even when wet. I decided to wrap an ice-cold wet woolen blanket around me that night, while sitting nude on my folded woolen blanket on the roof. The idea was disturbing but it might
hold a clue and if it was unbearable I could throw if off and dash inside. I was torn between intense fear of the awful chill my body would be subjected to and the possibility of making a new scientific discovery. Setting the alarm for 4:00 A.M. I got up at that time, soaked a rather thick army blanket in a bathtub of cold water and carried it up to the roof. The thermometer there stood at 200 F. I
took off my wool coat and sat down naked on my folded dry blanket. Then I drew the freezing
wet blanket around me. Only for a moment did the blanket feel cold. The wind was coming in gusts of around 20 mp~ and pulled at the blanket but I became warm as toast after a few moments inside. It was unbelievable. I didn't really under-stand it and it was a great surprise and relief to me. The
blanket gradually dried' by the heat of my body and the outer dry air and wind. The blanket steamed and my breath made mist~ as I breathed. It was fantastic. After 20 minutes of this I quit and went inside. I was perfectly warm. realized that at altitudes of 15,OOC feet or so the air is extremely dry, the atmospheric pressure is lower and the blankets must dry more rapidly. Furthermore, since the air is thinner less heat is conducted away into the atmosphere. During my exposure~ to the cold I was
aware that my pores shut up tight, holding ~ some of the body heat, but this wasn't the case
all of the time under the blanket; I was to' warm. I didn't understand the warmth.
The blanket froze to the roof around me
The water that drained
away on the roof's slightly downward slope made a frozen track. The
that remained in the metal pan in which I had carried the blanket up to
the root I found frozen solid after 20 minutes. I tried this with
results for two more nights but dried only one wet blanket on my body
night. I decided to dry the blanket three times. The first time I wet
in the tub and the next two times I wet it with buckets of water I had
lugged to the
roof. I was naked but comfortable in the night air as I did so. I dried i hree blankets each night for three nights with temperatures near 2OO F. and winds between 10 ~~nd 20 mph but I learned nothing about the cause of the heat.
Then it dawned on me that I actually was goading my
body to more and
more heat production with
the chill wet blankets on my skin. My pores were alternately closing and opening as I was chilled and then warmed by the flush of my skin and the insulating properties of the wet wool which confined the heat to my hody and the air inside the blanket surrounding me. I knew I had the answer.
I had gone about the whole thing backwards. Instead of exposing the body nude to the air for
extended periods of time to generate the mystical tumo you shock the body into heat producion.
The ice-cold blankets shock the body to a warm glow and don't conduct the heat away as outside
air or immersion in water would. It is quite easy to sit this way for an extended time at a very low temperatures. I had succeeded in stimulating my metabolism in this way. One night when the temperature dropped to 180 1 applied the freezing wet blanket eight times to my naked body. I rewet the blanket at 1~minute intervals over a period of two hours. I noticed that my respiration
automatically became very deep, which meant my body was demanding more oxygen to maintain my body heat at normal temperature. I became warm as toast and remained delightfully warm, naked in the freezing air each time I resoaked the blankets. The roof was covered with ice from all the water but not within the area covered by the blanket. Later I tried it in the snow and the snow melted under
me. My body felt as if it were at fever heat under the blanket but it was most pleasant. I had generated the mystical heat at last and it stayed with me when the blankets were removed after drying.
One peculiar thing I noticed during all this - the odor of nitrogen oxides such as accompanies electric spark discharges was present when I removed the dried blankets. I also saw a blue electric spark about two inches long jump from my hand to the tin roof when I threw off my wool coat after seating myself crosslegged. It shocked me considerably. This seemed to show the drying woolen blankets generated a charge of static electricity on my body surface. As far as I can see it has nothing to do
with the heat generation within the body but it heightens the mystery of the whole thing.
My temperature, taken orally, dropped about two degrees Fahrenheit when I applied the wet
blanket but dropped less each time the wet blanket was applied and rose to a normal 98.60
within a few minutes. The lowest atmospheric temperature at which I tried this was 100 F. Of
course, the blankets didn't get as dry as they would have in the extremely dry atmosphere of
16,-000 feet but they were well on the way. Except for the monotony and the fact that I became
tired I could have continued this all. night long. I no longer felt the cold! I was able to sit naked afterwards for an hour and continue to feel warm! I decided that when the cold air hit my naked body I received heat energy from the glycogen, a sugar, stored in my liver. My pores closed immediately and glycogen poured into my system keeping my body at normal temperature as it was oxidized.
Another night I sat with the same blanket, dry, wrapped around me. It did in the beginning shield me from the cold, although not too well, but there was no stimulation, no warm glow. I got colder and colder. Since under the wet blanket I had felt warm and comfortable with a delightful glow remaining each time the wet blanket was removed I feel this tends to prove that it is the repeated cold shocks that arouse the tumo. Of course, the wet blanket is also less porous and keeps the heat in and the cold air out better.I am well aware that hypnotized subjects, directed by a hypnotist, can lower or raise their body temperatures. Krafft-Ebbmg and Eichelberg demonstrated this years ago. Achieving it
through self-hypnosis is another matter. I couldn't do it and found it unnecessary. Still, the yogis, with a lot of practice, may be able to use hypnosis to keep warm although I am inclined to believe that they go one step further and call on the last line of the body's defense against the cold, a steady and more tha~ normal outpouring of hormones.
This has been a great adventure for me, pitting
against the accumulated
wisdom of the ancients. And I believe I have solved one of the great mysteries of the Far East
and am none the worse for it. No harm comes to you if you use nature's forces correctly.